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UPUA Kills Legislation to Strip Greek Voting Seats

The UPUA Greek Council seats will live to see another day.

The legislation proposed by College of Communications Rep. Ryan Belz, which would have stripped the four Greek Councils of their voting privileges in the UPUA, was dead on arrival. In front of an uncharacteristically full gallery in 302 HUB, the Internal Development committee voted 5-2 to indefinitely table the legislation, essentially killing any chance of efforts to take away the Greek seats succeeding anytime soon.

Policy 06-08 “Removal of Greek Council Representatives and Addition of Greek Council Liaisons” would have turned the four Greek Council voting representatives — one each from the Interfraternity Council (IFC), Panhellenic Council (PHC), National Pan-Hellenic Association (NPHC), and Multicultural Greek Council (MGC) — into nonvoting liaison positions.

Belz, the legislation’s only cosponsor, saw this as a chance to reign in the guidelines for gaining a voting seat within the assembly.

“We’re having a lot of other orgs on campus coming to us and hoping to have a vote on the assembly,” said Belz, specifically citing ROTC.  “And they always say, ‘The Greeks have a vote, so why cant we?'”

The four Greek voting seats in UPUA have often been criticized for their redundancy. The argument always goes, Greek students are represented by on-or-off campus representatives, along with at-large representatives and their academic college representative. Why add in an extra constituency group? Additionally, the Greek Councils are the only outside organizations that UPUA grants voting rights, which Rep. Kevin Horne, also an Onward State editor, described as “inherently unfair.”

Despite those arguments, there’s no denying Greek life’s heavy influence in UPUA during the student government’s eight years. In fact, an IFC endorsed UPUA presidential candidate has never lost an election, and Greeks tend to vote in disproportionately high numbers.

The gallery was loaded with heavy hitters from the Greek community, including IFC President Chip Ray and PHC President Rachel Franceschino, among others. The meeting turned into an open forum of sorts, as the Greek leadership defended their ground.

“I’ve never heard of one update from a single one of my off-campus representatives in the four years I’ve been here,” said Ray. “I’d never know which one of the twelve reps to talk to if I had any issues.”

Off-campus Rep. John Wortman agreed with Ray on the issue of representation.

“If you take away the representation from the Greek councils, I’m certainly not well equipped to represent the Greeks,” said Rep. Wortman. “I’ve never been part of the Greek community so I don’t necessarily understand all their best interests.”

That debate opened up the more philosophical question: Is UPUA’s system of representation adequate?

“The location based constituency system we’ve used for the last eight years just isn’t working,” said Horne. “The interests of on and off campus students are not unique as it pertains to the normal business of UPUA. We can either take away the Greek votes and have no outside groups, or we can create a defined system to allow other large groups on campus to join the UPUA in a voting capacity. I certainly would favor the second option — inclusion — but that will take some serious stipulations.”

But should UPUA just take away the Greek council votes and worry about a system for inclusion later on down the road? Belz said that this was only the “first piece” of the reform process, but Rep. Chase Englund asked, “How can we take steps here when we don’t even know the direction we want to go?”

Rep. Victoria Woods echoed Englund’s sentiment.

“I don’t think this legislation is an appropriate way to start to the conversation,” Woods said. “This is something we ought to hold off on until we have a better plan in place.”

Most people in the room seemed to agree with that sentiment — sure, the Greek Councils shouldn’t be the only outside groups to have voting seats, but UPUA should add more groups rather than take them away. Ultimately, the bill was tabled indefinitely in a 5-2 vote, with only Belz and Horne voting against it.

The feeling in the room as the meeting adjourned was that exciting times are ahead for UPUA in how it selects its membership. Preliminary plans are in place to hold a Constitutional Convention — or at least an open forum — in early December with student leaders to determine the best way to select membership in the future. It’s hard to say which way UPUA will go, but if last night’s meeting was any indication, more organizational representation is ahead.

Belz’s legislation failed, but the discussion it opened may ultimately save UPUA from a lifetime damnation to balloon animal and iPad hell.

We’ll see.

About the Author

Greg Schlosser

Greg is a senior majoring in energy engineering at Penn State. He is a big fan of Pittsburgh sports and sandwiches with coleslaw and french fries. You can email him at [email protected] or find him at the Phyrst drunkenly requesting the band to play "One Headlight."

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